Chemoembolization: A Minimally Invasive Approach to Treating Cancer
As vascular specialists, interventional radiologists target specific illnesses and diseases by using image guidance and small devices, which they guide through blood vessels to reach a part of the body that requires treatment. One such treatment is chemoembolization, a minimally invasive procedure that can shrink or even destroy cancerous liver tumors.
“Data from published studies on the procedure show that it is effective in up to 70 percent of patients in preventing disease progression,” said Ben Paxton, MD, Interventional Radiologist, Prescott.
Liver cancer can be a primary or a secondary cancer. If it is a primary cancer, the cancer tumor originates in the liver. This type of cancer is typically associated with liver cirrhosis or from Hepatitis B or Hepatitis C infection.
If it is a secondary cancer, tumor cells have metastasized—spread—from other organs in the body. Patients with other types of cancer are at risk for developing liver cancer since the liver acts as a holding area for circulating cancer cells.
While surgery still offers the best chance of a cure, it may not be possible for as many as two-thirds of primary liver cancer patients and as many as 90 percent of those with secondary liver cancer.
“Chemoembolization is a minimally invasive treatment for liver cancer that can be used when there is too much tumor to treat with surgical approaches,” said Dr. Paxton.
This type of treatment attacks the cancerous tumor from inside the body, while keeping the surrounding tissues and organs healthy. This is different from systemic chemotherapy that attacks the entire body as well as the cancerous tumor.
Chemoembolization delivers a high dose of chemotherapy directly into the organ while blocking, or embolizing, the arteries that supply the tumor with blood and nutrients. Embolizing the arteries that feed the tumor can help to shrink or destroy the tumor.
Chemoembolization can be used in combination with systemic chemotherapy, radiation and radiofrequency ablation treatments. These other treatments can be used to treat cancer in other parts of the body while doctors can “utilize chemoembolization to control the cancer in the liver,” according to Iyad Hamarneh, MD, Oncologist, Arizona Oncology Associates in Prescott Valley.
An example is a patient who has colon cancer that has spread to the liver. This patient has already undergone surgery and chemotherapy.
“Chemoembolization provides another, less invasive option to control their disease that has less morbidity and less mortality and potentially could help control the cancer,” said Dr. Hamarneh.
Dr. Hamarneh believes it is important that our community is able to provide top-notch cancer treatment because the financial burden of cancer and the time it takes to treat cancer can be considerable.
“It is important to give these patients as normal a quality of life as possible and receiving treatment close to home is an important part of this process,” Dr. Hamarneh said.
Dr. Paxton agrees. “It is important to provide this treatment locally in our community so that people don’t have to travel to receive it. They can spend more time in the comfort of their homes and with their families, and more time with their local doctors.”
Dr. Paxton’s partner, Interventional Radiologist Matthew Dicker, MD, said, “We work closely with oncologists and their patients to provide minimally invasive options to diagnose and treat or aid in the treatment of cancers.”
Dr. Hamarneh looks forward to working more closely with the interventional radiologists who perform chemoembolization in the quad-cities area and indicates that it is absolutely great and important that we can provide these options to our patients here locally.
“The decision to perform chemoembolization is a complex one that requires close collaboration between the oncologist and interventional radiologist as it may not be the right choice for every patient with primary or secondary liver cancer,” said Dr. Hamarneh.
For more information about chemoembolization, as well as image-guided biopsies, placing long-term IV access for chemotherapy, and other cancer treatment options that interventional radiologists perform, please contact Vascular and Interventional Specialists (VISP) at (928) 771-8477.